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Barringer Crater

Meteor Crater

Last Updated: . By Austin Whittall

Barringer Crater is a very big crater formed 50,000 years ago by the impact of a meteor.
It was the Site of Rimmy Jim's Trading Post on US 66, and it has the ruins of the Meteor Crater Observatory.
However, the best sight is the Barringer Crater itself.

Enjoy Meteor Crater AZ on Route 66.

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Route 66 and its Meteor Crater

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About Barringer Crater, Arizona

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation 5,400 ft (1.647 m). Population n⁄a (2010).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) no DST⁄ PDT (UTC-7).

Barringer Crater or Meteor Crater is a natural landmark near US Route 66 (just 5.8 miles south of I-40's Exit 233) in Coconino County, in the central part of Arizona. This is a Map of Barringer Crater.

Barringer Crater seen from the air.

Barringer crater seen from the air surrounded by desert
Barringer Meteor Crater seen from the air. Meteor Crater, AZ.

For the early history of the area around Barringer Crater, please read the History of Winslow, located very close to the Crater.

The old wagon trail that linked Winslow with Flagstaff was surveyed in the early 1880s, and the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, which later became part of the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (AT&SF) built a railroad through this barren region. The tracks are located to the north of what would later become "Meteor Crater".

A station named Sunshine was built about 1 mile north of I-40's Exit 233, and 6 miles to the northwest was the town of Canyon Diablo, now a ghost town. Further north lay the land of the Hopi and Navajo Reservations.

The Name: Barringer Crater

The place is named after the meteorite impact crater (Barringer Crater) which in turn was named after Daniel Barringer who suggested its meteoric origin when most scientists believed it to be an extinct volcano.

When Route 66 was created in 1926 it was aligned through the area along the National Old Trails highway. The road was realigned later in the 1940s. During the 1970s, the freeway (I-40) was built and it included an exit that provides easy access to the Crater.

Getting to Barringer Crater

To the east past the "ghost towns" of Meteor City and Leupp Corner is the town of Winslow followed by Joseph City and Holbrook. Head west to Winona and Flagstaff and stop to visit Twin Guns and Two Arrows.

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Where to Stay. Find your Hotel

There is no lodging on Route 66 in Barringer Crater other than the RV Camp, but you can find hotels nearby in neighboring Twin Arrows and Winslow

>> Book your Hotel in Winslow
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Lodging Near Barringer Crater along Route 66

Heading East In Arizona

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Near Route 66

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>> There is a RV campground in Barringer Crater

Weather in Barringer Crater

Route 66 in Barringer Crater AZ; location map

Location of Barringer Crater on Route 66

The climate of Barringer Crater is dry, temperate and arid. Relative air humidity is low and this leads to wide variations beween night and day temperatures all through the year, causing hot dry summer days but cool summer nights and cold winter ones.
During summer (Jul), the average high temperature is around 94.5°F (34.7°C) and the average low is 61.9 °F (16.6°C). In winter the average high (Jan) is 49.5°F (9.7°C) and the average low is about 20.8°F (-6.2°C), well below freezing pont.

As expected for an arid area, rainfall is scarce: 6.99 inches (178 mm) yearly and about half of it falls from July to September (3.1 in. - 79 mm). Snowfall is also light, with only 6.4 inches (16.3 cm) per year, between Oct. and April.
It is sunny in Barringer Crater, only 53 days per year are days with precipitation.

Tornado risk

There is almost zero tornado risk in Barringer Crater: Coconino County has no Tornado watches. The area west of the Rocky Mountains has virtually no tornado events at all.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
 

Map of Route 66 in Winona, AZ

Map of US66 in Meteor Crater

Map of US66 alignments in Meteor Crater
click to enlarge

Check out the alignment of Rotue 66 in Meteor Carter by clicking on the image, or visit our Route 66 Map of Arizona, with the all the alignments of US 66 and all the towns along it in the state of Arizona.

The color key for both maps of US 66 through Winona is the following:
Pale Blue: Driveable 1926 to 1952 Route 66 alignment.
Green: The alignment from 1937 to 1952 through Twin Arrows and westwards.
Blue: The 1926 to 1952 alignment of Route 66 west of Canyon Padre and all the way into Winona.
Black The part that cannot be driven, there is no road to drive, but you can still make out the original roadbed (1926 - 1937).

Barringer Crater, Arizona, its Sights and Attractions

Things to Do and Places to See

There are some remains of Route 66 significance and, of course, the gigantic crater which is the must-see sight.

At the Meteor Impact Crater

Barringer Crater or Meteor Crater is an amazing natural landmark just south of US 66; it has a Visitor Center and, closer to Route 66 an RV camp and service station.

Historic context, the classic Route 66

When Jack DeVere Rittenhouse published his "A Guide Book to Highway 66" in 1946 he detailed the attractions along Route 66, which included Leupp Corner and Meteor City". He mentions how the road wound across the hilly contryside and, 3 miles west of Meteor City, the Meteor Crater Observatory, which he noted as "Admission is free, and a stock of curios for sale". Just one mile west was Rimmy Jim's Service Station which had cabins built to look like Navajo hogans, lunchroom and gasoline. You could buy tickets to visit the crater for 25 cents per person (now it costs $20, that is inflation for you). Further west, 4 mi from Rimmy Jim's was Two Guns.

Sights

Head south from I-40s Exit 233 along Meteor Crater Road and after 0.4 mi. you will reach the junction with Old Route 66, which has an east to west course. To the right is the RV campground and service station. Notice the dome shaped shop, evoking the now closed Meteor City Trading Post.

Meteor Crater Observatory

Take a left to visit the Meteor Crater Observatory, 0.6 mile towards the east along Old Route 66. (See Map with directions).

The street view of the ruins of the Meteor Crater Observatory nowadays:

view of the ruins of the Meteor Crater Observatory nowadays, Route 66 Barringer Crater, AZ
A view of the ruins of the Meteor Crater Observatory by Darrell Fulwilder, Darrell Fullwilder
Click image for Street View

Looking at the remains of the building, it is hard to imagine that it once looked like a castle. The postcard below is a view of the same building, the Meteor Crater Observatory. It was printed in the 1940s.

A 1940s black and white photo of the Meteor Crater Observatory
A 1940s postcard of the Meteor Crater Observatory near Barringer Crater.

The rock building that resembled a castle was built by Harry and Hope Locke around 1935 with sandstone rock bricks. Although Harry died during construction, his widow opened the observatory in the late 1930s. But it was not the best time, the Great Depression still hurt business, and World War II killed tourism until 1945. So the observatory closed after a few years.

It reopened in 1946 when Dr. Harvey H. Nininger leased the building and used it for a museum, workplace, laboratory and home.

Dr. H.H. Nininger

Dr. Harvey Harlow Nininger (1887 - 1986) was a meteorite hunter and expert in all things relating to meteorites.

Nininger curated the museum he had founded. He also assisted in the investigation of the alleged Roswell "UFO crash".

The crater is located 6 miles south of the observatory. The visitors driving along Route 66 would stop at the observatory and take a peek at the crater through a telescope.

It was known as the American Meteorite Museum and was the first privately owned meteorite museum in the world, and of course it exhibited meteorite fragments. The "castle" closed in 1953 and the Museum relocated to Sedona, Arizona, 1953-60.

The building began to fall apart, and now only a few walls remain standing.

Rimmy Jim's Trading Post

Now gone

On the north side of I-40 right at the Exit 233, westbound.

Rimmy

The origin of Rimmy Jim's nickname is uncertain. There are two theories, one, is that he lived near the "rim" of the crater, the other that he was a "rimmy" cowboy who rode a "Rim-fire" or double-cinch saddle, common in Texas, where he was born.

James ("Rimmy Jim") Giddings was born in Cleburne TX in 1873 and died in Winslow, AZ, 1943. He moved to Arizona around 1908 and never got married. He opened his trading post in 1928 shortly after Route 66 was created.

He was quite a character and his store was decorated with signs and cartoons indicating that he disliked salesmen.

Salesmen were not welcome

One sign depicted a sturdy man (Rimmy) with a shovel in his hand walking away from a grave. The caption states: 'Stay from behind this counter - "When I tell'em to stay from behind my counters I mean it"', and the tomb stone declares: "Here lies the man wh had no fear. He went behind Rimmy's counter for a bottle of beer", the foot of the poster says "Rimmy has started his own grave yard. 40 miles east of Flagstaff, Ariz."

Another poster drawn like a cartoon showed Rimmy's face and several salesmen: it stated 'Meet "Rimmy Jim" the only man in the world that loves a salesman, God help the poor salesman on his first visit at Rimmys. Salesmen's time -5- minutes. The salesman who hung around too long "He's dead"'.

Rimmy Jim at his store in a vintage photo

1930s photo of Rimmy Jim
click to enlarge
Northern Arizona University

The photograph shows a view of the store and a "coffin" painted on its wall, the caption is "For all salesmen: free beheading and coffin fitting by courtesy of Rimmy Jim's Trading Post. Highway 66".

His succinct obituary published in the Arizona Champion ⁄ Coconino Sun (Flagstaff, Arizona) read: "Past 15 years owned the Meteor Crater Junction service station,40 miles east of Flagstaff.".

But the store survived him and is said to have burned around 1969, it was located on the later 1947 alignment of Route 66. No traces remain of the original building.

Some mistakenly attribute the Two Guns tower "Fort" and Canyon Lodge as being the original 1926 site of "Rimmy Jim's", but it was not his, it belonged to Harry E. (Indian) Miller.

"Rimmy Jim's" Service Station in 1950s and nowadays (gone) Route 66

Rimmy Jim's trading post and service station at Barringer Crater 
1950s and now
On Route 66: Rimmy Jim's trading post and service station at Barringer Crater in 1950s and now, Barringer Crater, Arizona
Click on image for Street View

The mountains on the horizon, the nearby ridge and the sandstone formations close by clearly identify this spot shown in the image as the location of the old service station and trading post. But nothing remains of it.

The Meteor Crater: Barringer Crater

From I-40 Exit 233, head 5.8 mi. south along Meteor Crater Rd. until you reach the Visitor Center next to the north rim of the crater.

U.S. National Natural Landmark

The crater was considered the most mysterious geologic feature in the West . Originally it was named "Crater Mound" and "Coon Butte".

From afar it looks like a low ridge, but this is the ridge formed by the rim of the crater, which is a circular depression about 4,000 ft. in diameter.

The crater is well visible because it is located in a very arid region, a desert, devoid of vegetation. Although it was more humid in the past, its dry conditions have preserved the crater fairly well.

Erosion has not degraded the crater but the flat floor inside the crater is due to lake sediments that settled there during a wetter period. The rubble from the rim has fallen into the crater forming "Talus cones" (a mantle of debris below the outcrop broken off by weathering and erosion).

Meteor crater or Meteorite Crater?

Actually, it is a Meteorite Crater; a meteor would have burned up in the atmosphere. Only a meteorite can punch a crater into the ground.

Meteoroids are objects in space that range in size from dust grains to small asteroids.
Think of them as "space rocks".
When meteoroids enter Earth's atmosphere (or that of another planet, like Mars) at high speed and burn up, the fireballs or "shooting stars" are called meteors.
When a meteoroid survives a trip through the atmosphere and hits the ground, it's called a meteorite. NASA

Meteoroid, Meteor and Meteorite

There are many bodies that orbit around the Sun: the planets, their moons, the asteroids, comets and also, smallers chunks of rock known as "meteoroids".

Most of the meteoroids are formed from the remains of ancient comets, the dust and rock that was embedded in the comets ice are released after each successive close encounter with the Sun. Other meteoroids are formed by the collisions between asteroids, which generate small fragments. Some are even ejected into space from Mars when large meteorites impact the Martian surface.

These meteoroids are mostly small and the gravity of the planets and Sun tug them about so that their orbits are modified in such a way that they intersect the Earth's orbit, colliding with our planet.

Most of them are small pebbles or tiny boulders. They enter the Earth's atmosphere at high speed and the friction with its gases heat it and vaporize it. These are known as "meteors", and we can see them burning upon entry as "shooting stars".

Some meteors are large enough to survive burn up and impact the Earth's surface, these are known as "meteorites".

Volcano or Meteor?

In 1891 Albert E. Foote wrote the first paper suggesting its meteoric impact origin. He gathered over 600 lb. of tiny fragments of meteoric iron as proof.
The following year Grove Karl Gilbert, the chief geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey lectured about its volcanic origin. He believed that a steam explosion had caused the crater and that the lack of magnetic anomalies were proof that no large iron body was buried under the crater.
At that time the impact mechanics of meteors was not well known, and that is why Gilbert overlooked the fact that most of the meteorite was vaporized upon impact and therefore there was little iron left in the crater.

Daniel Moreau Barringer (1860 - 1929) was a wealthy businessman who had made a fortune with silver mining in Arizona and he believed that there was plenty of iron to be mined at the crater.

He organized the Standard Iron Company and staked a mining claim on 640 acres (259 ha.) surrounding the crater in 1903. He lobbied to have a post office, which opened in Meteor, Arizona in 1906.

He championed the meteoric origin and wrote a paper with Benjamin Chew Tilghman in 1906 that was published in the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

George Perkins Merrill supported the meteor impact and wrote a paper titled "The Meteor crater of Canyon Diablo, Arizona its history, origin and associated meteoric irons", 1908. So did Herman L. Fairchild with his "Origin of meteor crater (Coon butte), Arizona", 1907.

But Barringer never found any large lump of iron (he expected to find ten million tons of it), so skepticism on the meteoric origin of the crater prevailed.

Ninninger (who ran the nearby Meteor Observatory) discovered particles formed by the fusion of local rocks that contained magnetite spheroids with cobalt and nickel these particles of glass slag were named impactites and clearly could not have been produced by a volcano, only by a meteorite.

animation of the meteor crater impact

Animated Gif Meteor Crater Strike
click to view
University of Iowa

But total proof would have to wait until 1959 when Eugene Merle Shoemaker (1928-1997) confirmed Barringer's hypothesis in his Ph.D. Thesis

Shoemaker's proof was the presence of two very rare forms of silica which are created under extreme pressure for very short period of times, like those encountered in a meteor impact event. No volcano can produce these forces.

See this simulated meteor strike created by the University of Iowa that shows how the meteor struck the ground and vaporized.

Barringer Trivia

  • A small lunar crater on the far side of the Moon is named after Daniel Barringer.
  • After Shoemaker's death, the Lunar Prospector space probe carried his ashes to the Moon, and he is the only person buried there.
  • The largest fragment yet discovered of the meteorite that impacted here is the Holsinger meteorite, you can see it and touch it at the Meteor Crater Visitor Center.
  • NASA astronauts trained in the crater during the 1960s preparing for the Apollo Moon missions

Evidence of the Meteoric Impact

The impact thrust the sandstone upwards and outwards so that it fell on the deformed rim (which had been pushed up). You can see the uppermost layer of white colored Coconino sandstone (265 million years old) the "ejecta" lying on top of the red Triassic sandstone that forms the upper layer of the terrain (245 million years old)

This inverted stratigraphy has the layers of rocks stacked in the reverse order to which they normally occur. So the older white rock overlies the younger red rock, indicating that it was formed by an impact.

From Iron Mine to attraction

Barringer's company spent over $600,000 on the mine and found nothing. He passed away in 1929 and the mining operations ceased. His wife and children formed the Barringer Crater Company and have operated it to this day.

The Crater in figures

  • Diameter: 0.737 miles (1.186 m).
  • Depth: 560 feet (170 m)
  • Rim rise: 148 feet (45 m)
  • Meteor diameter: 160 feet (50 m)
  • Meteor type: iron meteorite
  • Mass: 300,000 tons.
  • Impact speed: 28,600 mph (12.8 m⁄s)
  • Impact energy: 10 megatons
  • Rubble layer thickness: 690 - 790 ft. (210 - 240 m) above the bedrock
Size in feet and meters of Barringer Meteor Crater
Size of the Meteor Crater at Barringer Crater, Arizona, seen from the air.
Adapted from a NASA photo

The crater's name: Meteor Crater

The United States Board on Geographic Names assigns the names of natural features based on the nearest post office. So, as the nearest post office was the one located in the now defunct town of Canyon Diablo, the crater was known as Canyon Diablo Crater, and some iron fragments recovered from the impact are known as "Canyon Diablo Meteorite".

Later the Meteor post office opened next to the crater and it was renamed as "Meteor Crater". The scientific community knows it as "Barringer Crater" after Daniel Barringer who was the first to suggest its meteoric origin.

Visiting the Crater

It is a privately owned landmark despite being designated as a National Natural Landmark, it is not a National Monument (which would need it to be owned by the Federal government).

There is an admission fee charged to see the crater, and the Meteor Crater Visitor Center located on the north rim has interactive exhibits and displays, including the American Astron aut Wall of Fame, a part of an Apollo craft and the largest piece of the meteorite.

There is a gift shop, three lookout points and guided tours too. Give yourself around 1.5 hours for the Discovery Center and at least 1 hour for the guided rim trail tour.

Visit the website: meteorcrater.com for more information.

Walk all around the rim of the Barringer Meteor Crater

Google view from the Rim of Meteor Crater near Route 66, Barringer Crater, AZ
View from the rim of Barringe Crater
Click on image for an Interactive walk along the whole rim

On other meteorite impacts

The impact of Barringer's Meteorite

This meteorite struck the ground about 50,000 years ago and ejected 175 million tonnes of rock creating this "Meteor Crater".

The iron bolid was about 100 to 164 ft in diameter (30 to 50 m) and it caused some significant local damage.

At that time there were no people in America, the first humans reached the New World some 20,000 years ago, but there were plenty of animals in the area.

There was a juniper-pinyon forest in what is now a desert, and megafaunal mammals lived there (mammoths, camels, tapirs, horses and giant ground sloths).

The impact zone would have experienced a 20 to 40 megaton bast -equivalent to 1,300 to 2,700 bombs the size of the one that razed Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.

The impact ejected red hot rocks and molten meteorite fragments over 1 mile from ground zero (1 to 2 km), all animals in that area would have been vaporized.

The shock wave would have blasted the air outwards at an explosive sub-sonic speed (620 miles per hour, 1.000 km⁄h) killing all animals and flatenning trees to a distance of about 10 miles (16 km). Rocks and branches moving in the shock wave could have injured animals up to 15 miles (24 km) away.

The dust cloud and the smoke from the burning woodland would have had a regional impact, but did not affect the global climate or cause extinctions. Rain and snow melt filled the depression with a during the subsequent Ice Ages, when the climate was more humid.

The NASA and its Near Earth Object Program

Meteorites are mostly harmless, thousands of tonnes of meteor dust falls on the surface of the Earth each year. Some meteorites reach the surface but are seldom noticed as they are mostly small.

But on occasions larger bodies strike our planet and gouge out large craters like Barringer Crater, or even bigger. Their consequences depend on their size...

Collision size and frequency

  • 13 ft. (4 m) meteorites strike Earth once a year.
  • 23 ft. (7 m) meteorites impact Earth every 5 years.
  • 164 ft. (50 m) bodies collide once every thousand years.
  • 0.6 mi (1 km) bodies hit the Earth every 500,000 years.
  • 3.0 mi (5 km) asteroids hit us every 20 million years.
  • 6.0 mi (10 km) asteroids at least every 66 million years.

The Chicxulub crater in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico caused the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction (which wiped out the dinosaurs) 66 million years ago. The crater is over 110 mi (180 km) in diameter and 12 mi (20 km) deep. It was formed when a 6 mi. (10 km) body crashed into the Earth.

The Tunguska meteor that exploded in mid-air over the forests in Siberia in 1908, was about 200 to 620 ft. wide ( 61 to 190 m) and had the kick of 1,000 to 2,000 atomic bombs like the one dropped on Hiroshima. It fellled over 80 million trees covering an area of 830 sq. mi. (2,150 km2).

With this in mind, the NASA keeps an eye on asteroids and comets that many move close to the Earth's neighborhood, they are Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). The largest known NEO is 1036 Ganymed with a 19.7 mi. diameter (31.7 km).

Route 66's alignment in Barringer Crater

Route 66 across Arizona

Historic U.S. highway 66, "Route 66" has been designated as an All-American Road and National Scenic Byway in the state of Arizona.

Click on the following link for a Full description of Route 66 across the state of Arizona with links to each town along the highway.

> > See the previous segment Joseph City to Winslow
> > This segment is the Winslow to Winona Route 66 alignment
> > See the next segment Winona to Williams

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Credits and Further Reading

Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat
NASA Near Earth Object Program
Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs), International Astronomical Union (IAU)
Barringer Meteor Crater and Its Environmental Effects David A. Kring and Jake Bailey
Shoemaker E. M., (1959) Impact mechanics at Meteor Crater, Arizona, (Ph.D. Thesis) Princeton University

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